American Enterprise Institute (Defense Spending) As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, DC, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
US Department of Defense May 24, 2011
Thank you Arthur, and thanks for that introduction. And my thanks to the American Enterprise Institute for hosting this event on relatively short notice. In many ways it is appropriate that AEI be the setting for my last major policy speech in Washington. The recent history of this institution and some of its more prominent figures is inextricably tied to the war in Iraq, the conflict that pulled me out of private life and back into the public arena nearly four and a half years ago.
As you know, and as Arthur just said, I am in the final weeks of the greatest privilege of my professional life, serving as America’s 22nd Secretary of Defense. Most of my time and attention in this post has been dominated by America’s two major post-9/11 conflicts – each marked by swift, exhilarating victories against odious regimes followed by grinding, protracted counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaigns.
In the course of doing everything I could to turn things around first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan, from the early months I ran up against institutional obstacles in the Pentagon – cultural, procedural, ideological – to getting done what needed to get done on behalf of those fighting the wars we are in. Whether it was outpatient care for the wounded, armored troop transport, medevac, ramping up intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, or any number of urgent battlefield needs.
It became evident over time that changing the momentum of these conflicts – and increasing the odds of military success in the future – would also require fundamentally re-shaping the priorities of the Pentagon and the uniformed services and reforming the way they did business: How weapons were chosen, developed and produced, how troops and their families were cared for, how leaders were promoted and held accountable – and, related to all of the above, where money was spent (or misspent as the case may be).
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